Integrating therapy animals with psychological treatment for substance abuse programs can be valuable for many reasons. In addition to making the experience less stressful, these gentle creatures can also provide a source of assurance and confidence. When considering an alcohol and drug program, one will have numerous concerns or uncertainties regarding the use of animals in his or her treatment. The most common questions center around what different types of therapy animals are utilized. And, how do they assist in the process? Our goal is to help you understand the power of animal therapy in your rehabilitation journey.
When seeking a rehabilitation center, one may find the facility uses therapy animals in the treatment of drug and alcohol abuse. Although it is common to use a variety of animals across numerous disciplines when it comes to substance abuse programs the most commonly used are dogs and horses.
The natural bond between people and canines is undeniable. Often referred to as man’s best friend, dogs are well-known and loved as a therapy companion. Research indicates there are several benefits to canine therapy including:
- Learning how to relate to others
- An enhanced level of focus and interest
- Increases in motivation and positive attitude
- Improves communication skills and cooperation
- Encourages teamwork
- Fosters trust
- Promotes empathy
For those comfortable around dogs, this form of therapy has proven to aid in one’s overall well-being. The connection between a recovering addict and a canine increases the levels of oxytocin, a hormone in the brain which produces the feelings of love and bonding. This feel-good state of mind will, in turn, reduce stress and blood pressure.
Horses used as therapy animals is another recognized option in addressing the behavioral element in the recovery process. Equine therapy has been employed for decades with positive results, with studies indicating the interactions between human and equine are positive and beneficial for the person in treatment.
Because horses are non-judgmental and accepting creatures, it is easy for a bond to be made with the patient. When it comes to demeanor, mood and responsive social behavior, horses respond in a manner similar to that of people, making them an ideal therapeutic assistant. Equine therapy demonstrates that the interaction between a horse and human helps a recovering addict:
- Build a sense of self-worth
- Learn responsibility
- Develop social skills
- Learn their limits and boundaries
- Encourage self-efficacy
- Manage their emotions effectively
- Improve communication skills
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or substance abuse, it is essential you pursue trained specialists that can provide a drug addiction assessment and an appropriate treatment plan. Ensuring the health and overall well-being of the addict must be a paramount objective of the chosen facility. And, trusting the process of recovery and the power of therapy animals in one’s rehabilitation journey should not be underestimated. Incorporating animal therapy with other comprehensive rehab services including holistic treatments, nutritional plans, and recreational activities will facilitate the process of facing one’s addiction and enable healing.